A recent Alaska Marine Highway System ferry sighting in Tenakee Springs attracted a crowd eager for this week's resumption of service, the community's mayor said.
A state ferry hadn't docked in town since the LeConte wrecked near Sitka May 10. Mayor Shelly Wilson said the scheduled return of ferry service Friday, when the Taku is set to pull into town, is generating excitement.
About 30 people from the community came out at 10 p.m. on a recent evening to see the Taku test whether it could make it into port. Some held a sign welcoming the boat, and there were flowers for the skipper, Wilson said.
"We were wanting to make the trip in as pleasant as possible," she said.
Tenakee Springs, about 45 miles southwest of Juneau on the east side of Chichagof Island, has been without ferry service since the last weekend of May. It was served by the LeConte, the smallest of the state ferries serving Southeast Alaska at the time.
On May 10, the LeConte ran aground on the Cozian Reef in Peril Strait during a scheduled run from Angoon to Sitka. With gashes on both sides of its bow, it was towed to Ketchikan for repairs.
Alaska Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nona Wilson said the repair bid has been awarded to Alaska Ship and Drydock in Ketchikan. The cost, less than $3 million, will be covered by insurance, she said.
Work on the LeConte will keep it out of service into September, she said. After that there will be trial runs to make sure it is seaworthy. Those shouldn't need to be extensive because damage was limited to the hull, she said.
The Taku was scheduled to go in for routine maintenance, but is now scheduled for most of the LeConte's route through August, Nona Wilson added.
The Taku, measuring 352 feet, is 117 feet longer than the LeConte. It also can hold up to 370 passengers, to 250 for the LeConte, and more vehicles, 69 to 34.
Even when the LeConte and its sister ship, the Aurora, were making regular stops at Tenakee Springs, people weren't taking cars into and out of the community. The Aurora is now working waters north.
Tenakee Springs has an unpaved path, separating buildings on the waterfront from those on the hillside. Residents use all-terrain vehicles and bicycles, which they will be able to take on the Taku.
In recent weeks, Alaska Catamaran has provided passenger service for Tenakee Springs, Angoon and Pelican.
Shelly Wilson said the small vehicles and bicycles haven't been able to go on the catamarans, and limited space has prohibited people from bringing many supplies home.
Nona Wilson said the Alaska Marine Highway System is continuing to look for ways to improve service to Angoon and Pelican. The system is looking to contract with a company that can provide better vehicle transport to and from Angoon.
Currently, vehicle-only service provided by Allen Marine connects Angoon with Sitka and Juneau.